Corey Mwamba / Dave Kane / Joshua Blackmore: Don't Overthink It (2013)
There's a simple message on the inner sleeve of Don't Overthink It, the first full-length studio recording from vibraphonist Corey Mwamba . bassist Dave Kane and drummer Joshua Blackmore. There's a simple manifesto in its title and some complex improvised music on the album, but enjoying it is a simple matter. The three UK-based musicians are responsible for the music: maybe they're responsible for the title and the message too, or maybe they aren't. No point spending too much time trying to work out that particular conundrum; it's best not to over-think it.
As a title, Don't Overthink It could almost be a manifesto for improvised music: give it too much thought and improvisation runs the risk of becoming composition (not that composition is a bad thing, but it's not the thing that the trio is aiming for). This music certainly doesn't sound like it's been over-thought. It has, for the most part, a gentle and relaxed vibe, an air of tranquility and calm. Mwamba's vibraphone playing must take much of the credit for this, he has a light touch and a warm tone, but the intuitive understanding shared by all three musicians is paramount in creating this very attractive musical world.
"Ynglinga" opens with Kane's tense arco bass, which sets up a sense of mystery that's intensified by Blackmore's jagged percussion. Mwamba's vibes have a more playful feel, tempering the mystery with a childlike delight in exploration and the resulting ensemble piece is rather beautiful. "Understory" starts off almost imperceptibly, builds slowly and barely rises above a whisper. "Run Down" is a livelier affair, all three players showing uncharacteristic urgency as they sweep and dive in and out of each other's increasingly frenetic phrases.
"Myriad (growth)" calms things down a little. Kane hits the bass strings with his bow to craft a percussive rhythm, Mwamba's at his most meditative and Blackmore adds short, scattered flurries. On "Big Man Chat" the emphasis shifts back to a more up-tempo and urgent rhythm, while "Bifrost"the title reflects the chilly, detached, feel of the tunedraws things to a somewhat unsettling close.
The message on the inner sleeve is worth quoting: "None of the tracks on this album has a name, really. If you like you can give them names of your own choosingjust cross out the names we put in. It doesn't matter. We just hope you enjoy the music." So if "Run Down" sounds more like "Fly Away" or "Big Man Chat" sounds like it should be called "Pindoodle Breakfree" then get out the ballpoint and start scribbling.
There's another simple message on the cover of Don't Overthink It"Listen Carefully." Admirable advice. It's the least that this engaging and evocative music deserves and it will reward such careful listening many times over.
Track Listing: Ynglinga; Understory; Run Down; Myriad (growth); Big Man Chat; Bifrost.
Personnel: Corey Mwamba: vibes; Dave Kane; double bass; Joshua Blackmore: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced